8 limbs of yoga are a set of guidelines written by a sage Patnjali in 500 B.C. in Yoga Sutras. Even in modern times, they remained the foundational principles of the yoga path.
The first limb is called Yamas, and it involves a set of ethical rules that govern our interaction with the world. According to Patnjali, living ethically is the foundation of the yogic life.
What Are Yamas
Yamas are ethical precepts which teach us to live more consciously and ethically, which will also benefit those around us. The Yamas can be practiced in all aspects of our lives, including thoughts, words, and actions.
Although practicing Yamas may seem difficult at first, their purpose is positive and simple—to end our suffering, and help us live a more fulfilling life.
Yama literally translates to “rein”, meaning we need to restrain some aspects of our behavior in order to find peace with our self and others.
The five yamas are:
● Ahimsa - non-harming, non-violence
● Satya – truthfulness
● Asteya - non-stealing
● Brahmacharya - moderation, conserving energy
● Aparigraha - non-possessiveness, non-attachment
How To Practice In Daily lifeNow that you know what Yamas are, it’s time to think about how you can involve them in your everyday life.
Ahmisa refers to non-violence and non-harming. Practicing this Yama leads to healthier relationships and a more peaceful life.
To practice this principle, you will need to start within. Try to be more compassionate towards yourself, accepting yourself as you are and catering to your own needs. Consider your thoughts towards yourself and others – try to avoid creating negative scenarios or overly judging or criticizing others in your mind. Try to be more forgiving, and accepting, even in situations when that is difficult.
Satya refers to truth and encourages us to live honestly and with integrity. It encourages refraining from dishonesty in our thoughts, words, and actions. In yoga, Ahimsa, or non-harming, is the most important Yama, which means we will avoid telling truth that causes harm to others.
Still, try to speak the truth in all other occasions. In the beginning, this practice may awaken fears, but that only means we need to process and understand them. Once we release these negative emotions, we will be able to refrain from telling lies, and be honest, transparent, and kind in our communication and behavior.
Asteya refers to non-stealing, or not taking that which is not freely given to us. This principle may seem simple when we look only at physical possessions, however on a deeper level, it is much more difficult to practice.
Besides theft of material things, Asteya also refers to non stealing of other's time and energy. It encourages us to be self-sufficient and to not steal information, emotional favors, or anything else others aren’t freely offering to us. This principle also refers to no causing or encouraging someone to steal.
The opposite of stealing is giving, and the easiest way to include this principle in your life is to give more of your time, money, possessions and energy to others without expecting something in return. The act of giving will lead you to feel more wealthy, and you will naturally have everything you need within yourself.
Brahmacharya refers to continence, but unlike common belief, that doesn’t have to mean celibacy. For some people, like monks, celibacy or refraining from sex is a part of the Brahmacharya practice. But what it truly means is being responsible to one's sexual energy, and not wasting it on things that don’t serve us.
Conserving your energy means being more respectful to yourself and others when it comes to sex, but that’s not the only way in which we can waste our energy. It also includes moderation in other aspects of our life, including what we consume in terms of food and information, and what type of people we surround ourselves with. Ultimately, this frees us from cravings, addictions, and dependencies, and allows us to feel peace within.
The last of the five Yamas is Aparigraha, which refers to non-possessiveness. It teaches us that everything in this world is here for us to use, but not to own. It refers to not being attached to money or possessions, but also thoughts, sensations and other people. To practice Aparigrapha, work to be happy with what you already have, but allow life to happen, and release that no longer serves you.
In relationships, Aparighrapha means you do not control anyone, or try to gain more of their love or attention to feel fulfilled within. In a material sense, try not to buy more than you are actually using, and avoid getting attached to your possessions. With the practice of non-possessiveness, you will feel gratitude towards people and things you have, which will lead to healthier relationships and a more peaceful life.